We all remember watching Nomar Garciaparra at the plate don’t we? Adjust one glove then the other… then again then again then again…tap the toes then again then again. How about the trot to the field? Out of the dugout..one foot on the step then the other foot on the same step..repeat for each step. WATCH OUT for the base line! Don’t step on it. Then coming off the field…a toe drag then another to drag… and WATCH OUT for the base line! Yikes…it was painful to watch number 5 go through his tics. Well if you watched any of The Player’s Championship this weekend, you witnessed the golf equivalent of Nomar with Kevin Na. The poor guy has more waggles than a Labrador retriever has wags! And they have a ton. This guy was actually trying to play fast on the last day. At times, he was driving it past Kuchar and running to his ball so he wouldn’t hold up play. He got warned the day before for slow play and was afraid he was going to be on the clock again for the final round. His “pull the trigger” issues even started to creep into to his putting which was rock solid for the prior three days. It pained everyone who watched. He was heckled from the crowd and even from twitter and Facebook. I imagine you may have even barked at the tv…”c’mon just hit the ball!” He was not only fighting the thoughts in his head but possibly one of the most difficult courses on the tour schedule. And he had to finish. He couldn’t just say to his foursome, “ya know, I think I’ve had enough…I’ll take my max on the rest of the round, I’m heading in and calling it a day.” “where’s the 19th hole?” No, he had to finish…and he did, swing demons and all. Good for Kevin Na, now let’s hope he has an appointment with his mental golf guru sooner rather than later.
There’s a lot to be learned from this weekend’s event, on both the player’s side and on the playing partners side. First let’s talk about the player. Kevin Na did the wild air swing, waggled to get comfortable, stutter stepped, backed off and started again more times than we can count. His gyrations on the tee were historic. However, there’s something to be said for backing off, and I agree, if you’re not comfortable better to back off than to hit a lousy shot. I completely support and recommend backing off if you don’t feel comfortable. You WILL have a better shot because of it. Even the commentators couldn’t believe how good his shots were after the balked routine. Not only will you have a better shot, you WILL have a LOWER score. Why? because you’ll have fewer shots. If you rush and make a bad swing, and the ball goes dribbling off the tee or flying into the woods, you have just added another shot which slows down your round. If you re-set yourself and feel better at address, your swing will benefit. Rather than say to yourself, “I’ve been here so long, I better just hit it,” step back take a deep breath and start your pre-shot routine again. If you feel like that might cause the group to be slow, then you can always play ready golf or just walk a bit faster to your next shot. Whatever you do, take your time during your swing. You can make up time elsewhere during play. Take care to feel balanced and comfortable on the tee and you’ll play better for it.
As for the players in the group… You’re playing with someone who has a zillion waggles, strange tee rituals and just takes forever to pull the trigger. It seems like they’re going to hit it this time…and….swoosh…air swing with a step back. It’s driving you crazy! The solution? Don’t watch them swing. No, really…don’t watch. Stand to the side as you normally would, but glance down the fairway rather than watch the player. When you hear the crack of the club as it strikes the ball, give a glance toward the fairway and watch it fly. If you feel so inclined, say nice shot, if not then just start strolling down the fairway. Your stress will surely be reduced when you listen to the shot rather than watch the swing!